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Much has been made of the personal, or internal, consumption issue in recent years. In fact, the amount of internal consumption in any multi-level compensation business does not determine whether or not the FTC will consider the plan a pyramid scheme. The critical question for the FTC is whether the revenues that primarily support the commissions paid to all participants are generated from purchases of goods and services that are not simply incidental to the purchase of the right to participate in a money-making venture.[40]
“Right now, I make more doing hygiene than recommending products to people, but maybe in four or five years I could retire as a hygienist,” says Donald. “Because people don’t realize that you actually have to work and put in a good few years before you start seeing money — it’s like any business. You can’t open your doors and expect to be rich tomorrow.
If you are a materialist, you only have to get over the cheekiness of the presentation. But if you do not wish to promote such ideas, if you consider them sinful, then this puts you at the focal point of a moral dilemma. Do you wish to be a salesperson for materialism?
Network marketing, also known as Multi-Level Marketing (MLM), is a business model where independent contractors buy into a company and earn a commission on the products they sell. The profession appeals to many people because they can be their own boss, set their own hours, and work towards their own success. It is a big commitment, but network marketing can be a very lucrative career.
This aspect of the MLM experience should not be underestimated, and the reflective reader would do well to think twice about the value of friends, family, community, and church fellowship before joining or continuing in an MLM.
It’s no wonder being able to make money without having to work a traditional 9 to 5 is super appealing. Full-time permanent employment is increasingly hard to find, and research confirms it. According to two 2015 studies, one by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the other by the United Way of Toronto, the economy is increasingly dependent on precarious employment — which disproportionately affects young people aged 15 to 24, particularly women and people of colour.
And these sales aren’t just to customers. You see, in order to join an MLM you usually need to buy products to sell (often referred to as a starter kit, or similar). And then in order to remain a seller, stylist, supervisor, or whatever term the company uses, you often need to make a minimum number of sales in a given time period (though not always).
In FUND AMERICA, the “approved materials” showed what a great man the founder was, depicted the depth of his management experience, showed him in mood shots, etc. It is easy to swoon in admiration of such a powerful, visionary man, dedicated to bringing this wonderful opportunity to common Americans like us.
Some people may think this is the definition of a pyramid scheme, or believe that Multilevel Marketing (aka MLM) is synonymous with Pyramid Scheme. However, there is a massive distinction between MLM and Pyramid Schemes. You wouldn’t call Mary Kay Cosmetics, or AVON a pyramid scheme, would you? Both of those companies are prime examples of Network Marketing or MLM companies. The distinction comes in how the company compensates its employees or distributors. When a Network Marketing company’s primary compensation is for recruiting rather than selling, then it could very well be considered a pyramid scheme, which actually, is illegal.
MLM has its origins in direct selling, which developed in the rural United States, where supply lines were limited and retail options were scarce. In the olden days this meant the Avon lady going door-to-door, or the woman down the street holding a Tupperware party, but in the modern era direct selling can more broadly refer to any retail business that is conducted person-to-person (including electronically) rather than at a retail store.
Jump up ↑ Taylor, Jon (2011). /00017-57317.pdf “The Case (For and) Against Multilevel Marketing” (PDF). Consumer Awareness Institute. https://www.ftc.gov/sites/default/files/documents/public_comments/trade-regulation-rule-disclosure-requirements-and-prohibitions-concerning-business-opportunities-ftc.r511993-00017 /00017-57317.pdf. Retrieved 2018-04-08.
The most cult-like thing about MLM is that it manipulates members’ existing beliefs and desires, and tricks them into believing they are exercising free will. MLMs are able to coerce people into willful and compliant self-destruction on a staggering scale: we’re talking quitting or getting fired from a six-figure full-time job due to an MLM, alienating everyone you know due to your constant sales pitches, investing your own or someone else’s life’s savings into an MLM, ruining your credit or losing collateral by borrowing heavily to fund an MLM, and even theft to support an MLM habit.[44] Suicides related to MLM have been reported.[45]
One such success story is Nicole Haas of Williamsburg, Virginia. A bubbly blonde and former personal trainer, she put $12,000 on a low-interest credit card to start her LuLaRoe business in January 2017. Through working 25 to 30 hours a week, she paid off her credit card in May and now puts $3,000 a month in her family’s account, less taxes. “It’s changed my life,” she says. “It’s changed who I am as a person.”
Multi-level marketing, abbreviated as MLM, also called pyramid selling, network marketing and referral marketing, is a controversial marketing strategy for the sale of products and/or services where the revenue of the MLM company is derived from a non-salaried workforce (also called participants, and variously known as “salespeople”, “distributors”, “consultants”, “promoters”, “independent business owners”, etc) selling the company’s products/services, while the earnings of the participants is derived from a pyramid-shaped commission system.
These are only a couple of examples of people who went from struggling with their finances to being financially secure, and continuing to make a fortune. There are hundreds of more examples of people who have literally gone from rags to riches through Network Marketing. However, it should be emphasized that these people did not just sit back and collect money, they had to put in the hard work and dedication necessary to grow their network of sales, as well as doing the work required to get the word out and represent their companies.
The main issue with MLMs is in the way they usually work. Rather than your profit coming from the actual products you sell, it comes from recruiting people into the business as sellers under you (your ‘downline’) and making commissions on their sales (and their downlines).
Thus, there is reason for the “bad taste” most people have for MLMs. By instinct if not experience or insight, we wince at the thought of what we know will follow in the wake of an MLM. Relationships strained, factions formed, deception, manipulation, greed, loss, a closet full of videotapes, brochures, and useless inventory that “everybody wants.”

For most people, this means if we are going to be materialistic or greedy, we would rather not be obvious about it. Thus, Madison Avenue has subtle, highly polished ways of appealing to these vices without being heavy handed. We don’t mind so much… as long as it is “veiled.” This hypocrisy, while sad, is the status quo. So, Madison Avenue is trying to be ever more subtle in appearing not to be manipulating our immoral “bent” towards greed and materialism.
Multilevel marketing (MLM) or network marketing is a type of unfair and deceptive financial woo, purportedly a business, promoted by a non-salaried workforce selling a company’s product/s or service/s independently, who are paid according to a commission structure that heavily incentivizes endless recruitment.
Jump up ^ Carl, Walter J. (Winter 2004). “The Interactional Business of Doing Business: Managing Legitimacy and Co-constructing Entrepreneurial Identities in E-Commerce Multilevel Marketing Discourse”. Western Journal of Communication. 68 (1): 92–119.
A February 10, 2011 article stated “It can be very difficult, if not impossible, for most individuals to make a lot of money through the direct sale of products to consumers. And big money is what recruiters often allude to in their pitches.”[38]
Français: devenir pro du marketing en réseau, Español: tener éxito en las redes de mercadeo, Deutsch: Im Network Marketing erfolgreich werden, Português: Alcançar o Sucesso com Marketing Multinível, Italiano: Avere Successo nel Network Marketing, 中文: 成功进行网络营销, Русский: преуспеть в сетевом маркетинге, Nederlands: Succesvol zijn in netwerkmarketing, Bahasa Indonesia: Sukses Di Pemasaran Jaringan, العربية: النجاح في مجال التسويق الشبكي, Tiếng Việt: Thành công trong việc kinh doanh theo mạng
Water.org is an international nonprofit organization that has positively transformed millions of lives around the world through access to safe water and sanitation. Founded by Gary White and Matt Damon, Water.org pioneers innovative, market-driven solutions to the global water crisis — breaking down barriers to give families hope, health and the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty.
In the MLM business model, the commission derived from the MLM’s pyramid-shaped structure (i.e. from the sales of one’s recruits) is the most profitable revenue stream. This revenue stream, however, is also the least statistically probable source of remuneration to a salesperson. Conversely, the revenue stream from direct-sales of ones own personal sales is the least profitable. This revenue stream, however, is also statistically the most likely source of remuneration to salespeople. For the overwhelming majority of participants, however, neither one of these two revenue streams will be profitable after operating expenses are deducted.
Jump up ↑ Washburn, David (2005-08-06). “Metabolife will plead guilty, end tax probe”. San Diego Union-Tribune. http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/business/20050806-9999-1b6metabo.html. Retrieved 2007-04-11.
MLMs work by geometric expansion, where you get ten to sponsor ten to sponsor ten, and so on. This is usually shown as an expanding matrix (just don’t say “pyramid”!) with corresponding kick-backs at various levels.
the upline/downline: a normal franchise model is flat, and all franchisees deal with corporate headquarters or a regional manager for supplies, point-of-sale materials, and the like – in MLM you deal directly with who recruited you (your “upline”) and in turn manage those directly underneath you (your “downline”) in a weirdly feudal hierarchy
Essentially, the idea is that any given upline collects a cut of the sales from every member of their downline. As a result, the only path to solvency for the upline is to make sure that the downline recruits as heavily as possible, with as deep a pyramid beneath them as possible – as opposed to conventional businesses, where the path to solvency is to sell sufficient product to consumers.

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